I'm Still Pissed
Yesterday was the second time I have been asked the question, “Have you forgiven yourself?” after I expressed my unresolved anger held toward my past abusers to my current therapist. The first time was nearly two years ago at a meditation retreat put together by Dharma Recovery, my preferred choice of recovery program. When I was originally asked the question, I thought, “Man, I have a lot of work to do.” So, I dug deep and really let myself feel my feelings and explore what it meant to accept myself wholeheartedly.
Now, two years later, I sit here thinking, “Why the hell do I need to forgive myself for something I didn’t even do?” Since I have moved past the regret and guilt I felt for enduring months of sexual assault from my 8th grade teacher, what more is there left to “forgive?” What the fuck does that even mean? I am picturing some sort of confessional, a la the Catholic Church where I endured said abuse, where I talk to myself and…what? What is there left to accomplish? I wasn’t the adult sticking my hand up a teenage girl’s gym shorts.
I’ve heard the argument many times that anger and resentment merely take up space and wasted energy. I would encourage people who express these platitudes to read Rebecca Traister’s book, Good and Mad, in which she discusses how women’s ire has led to the feminist revolution. Perhaps my favorite line is where she states at the end that while writing and researching the book, she had the best sex of her life! She acknowledges that many women are not able to be as forthright and explicit as she, as it could wreck careers or break apart families. We as women endure so much, all while being forced to keep quiet.
Well, I am not one for being quiet. Nor am I going to just deliver blanket forgiveness to my abusers. I do have occasional moments of peace and calm where I am able to do so, but it doesn’t stop my anger from raging back to the surface when I am triggered, such as while hearing Dr. Blasey Ford testify against the despicable Brett Kavanaugh, who sits alongside another sexual predator presiding over the highest court of the United States. The fact that both Professor Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford were not taken seriously in their testimonies describing the sexual abuse/assault they endured from Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh is enough to make me scream until I have no voice left.
I learned a lot from listening to the podcast called, Because of Anita. Professor Anita Hill’s testimony against the nomination of Clarence Thomas has been frequently referred to as the case that she “lost,” even though it was never her “case” to begin with. She was merely there to provide truths to Congress for them to take into consideration while deliberating the appointment of Judge Thomas. The best episode (in my humble opinion) in the podcast features Dr. Blasey Ford and Professor Hill speaking together and comparing their experiences. They disclose that many women have said to them that they could never
have done what they did, and Dr. Blasey Ford and Professor Hill argue that the price of being quiet was too heavy for them to bear. Speaking up and telling our truths frees us. If we don’t speak up, who will?
Another thing that I learned from Glennon Doyle, her sister Amanda, and her beloved wife Abby Wambach in their podcast, We Can Do Hard Things, in which they interviewed the inspirational Tarana Burke (who founded the Me Too movement, in case you weren’t aware), is that while we tell our children never to let adults touch their privates or hurt them in any way, many of us don’t follow up with what to do if it happens. This forces our children to feel guilt and retreat into themselves, not wanting to tell us for fear of “being bad.” It’s up to us as parents to let our children know that if anyone does touch them inappropriately or abuse them, it’s not their fault and they can tell us so that we can address the situation. This is something I wish I would have known when I was a young teen dealing with so much guilt and confusion over what was happening in the classroom and on the school bus.
Now, after many years of therapy (which I am convinced will continue until the day I die), endless self-help books, and almost daily meditation, I’m still pissed. In fact, I sit here staring at one of my favorite poems taped to the wall next to my desk. It’s Audre Lorde’s, A Litany for Survival. The poem ends as such:
“and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.”
Yet, here I am surviving, and thriving:
Picture by the incredible AJ Kahn.